Have you ever tried to hold a beach ball under the water? It’s impossible! It keeps rising to the surface no matter how hard you try to hold it down.
Anger is a lot like that.
Stifled or ignored anger festers and grows. It pops out at any given moment even though we try to hold it in.
Yet, when we listen to the messages our anger has for us and learn how to express it in healthy ways, the ball deflates. Then we can use our energy in more positive ways.
Express Your Anger
Anger is often compared to a volcano erupting.
You know the feeling - your emotions start rumbling below the surface, pressure builds and begins to bubble up until you explode with force, spewing over everyone in your vicinity.
This is our way of releasing the negative energy in an attempt to soothe our sense of injustice because we believe that we have been wronged somehow. Unfortunately this is rarely effective at solving the problem. It usually only makes it worse.
As uncomfortable as it is, anger is neither good or bad. As I discussed in our previous blog post, anger is a messenger, an alarm going off to let us know that we have unmet needs.
So what should we do when we feel the volcanic forces building up?
Marshall Rosenberg suggests using this 4 step formula when you feel anger starting to arise:
1. Stop and Breathe
Refrain from saying or doing anything in reaction to the other person. This can be very challenging, but it gets easier with practice! Take a few deep breaths.
2. Identify Your Judgemental Thoughts
Recognise your thoughts that are making you angry. Become conscious of them, but try not to judge them. Become aware of what are you telling yourself about the situation
3. Connect With Your Needs
Look deeper and discover the unmet needs that are being exposed by your thoughts. (here is a helpful list of universal human needs) Beneath each angry thought, reaction or judgment is a need that is crying out for attention. Observe and listen. “I am angry because I am needing…”
4. Express Your Feelings and Unmet Needs
Now is the time to open your mouth and express your needs and feelings! If this is something you would like to learn how to do, we break it down into simple steps in this blog post.
Appreciate Your Anger
Anger can be a gift.
Every experience of anger can be an opportunity for personal growth and self-understanding. If this is a new approach for you and you have never seen it modelled in real life, I encourage you to be patient with yourself and take it slow. It may feel awkward and uncomfortable as you practice those four steps, but once you start seeing different results playing out in your life, it will start to feel more natural.
You will be able to enjoy life with a deeper empathy for yourself and others without wasting precious emotional energy trying in vain to hold that beach ball under the water.